L.A. Mushroom Season Starts!

October 7, 2016

The early Fall can be an extraordinary time for finding fungus in Southern California, as I was thrilled to discover at the perimeter of two NHMLA sites.

Along the border of the Exposition Park Rose Garden, adjacent to NHMLA’s Nature Garden, is a grove of remarkably large Ficus and Eucalyptus trees. Recently, two of the six or so Eucalyptus trees were sporting young fruiting bodies and more mature “shelves” of Laetiporus gilbertsonii, a fungus known as the California Chicken of the Woods. This species is a wood decay fungus common to California oaks and eucalyptus trees especially when they are old or stressed from something like drought, which we are experiencing in Southern California. These golf-ball sized, candy corn-colored blobs were as weird as they were wonderful.

More mature “shelves” of Laetiporus gilbertsonii were found on Eucalyptus trunks near the ground and as high as about 20 feet. 

Later that week, in the parking lot of NHMLA’s Invertebrate Paleontology facility in an industrial park in Carson, CA (where NHMLA’s largest fossil collection is housed), I noticed this phenomenal fungus along the lot’s once-landscaped edge. Both specimens are, I think, Ganoderma applanatum, also a wood decay fungus and a common species found around the world. Interestingly, their difference in appearance is due to the age of the fungus: young = brown/orange and white, more mature = woody brown. What is odd about these specimens is that they are not growing on a tree but from a cinder block wall near the ground. 

Ganoderma applanatum is called the “artists’s conk” (conk = fruiting bodies of a fungus attached to a tree) because its white undersurface turns brown when drawn on and can be used as a “canvas” of sorts to create etchings. Specimens have been reported to live as long as 50 years and Ganoderma applanatum conks on trees in mountainous African rain forests have been observed (by none other than the late Diane Fossey) to be collected by and gnawed on by gorillas.

Many thanks to citizen scientist Gregory Han for confirming fungus identifications. For more information on fungus finding and other mushroom-related events, check out the Los Angeles Mycological Society.


(Posted by: Jann Vendetti)


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Before I launch into an animated discussion on the individual plants we've chosen for the space, let me give you a basic primer on what the Transition Garden is all about. Firstly, this is the space that ramps you up from the lower level of our new Car Park to the Entrance Plaza where you'll get your tickets. It is a nice gentle slope, so it will be easy for people of all abilities to make their way into the North Campus. It is also a stepped garden on a fairly severe slope. With these points in mind Mia Lehrer + Associates (ML+A) had to design a garden that would function physically, biologically, and thematically (we wanted more than just a random selection of plants). Thanks to ML+A this garden tells a great story.



 

The Story of Plant  Introductions in Los Angeles 

The plants that exist in L.A. today are a mixed and varied bunch, a real representation of our altered nature. They have been brought here purposefully and sometimes accidentally. As one enters the ramp from the lower deck of  the Car Park you'll encounter plants introduced to L.A. over the last 200 years. So far we have California Pepper Trees, Schinus molle, from Peru; iconic Los Angeles palms, Washingtonia robusta, from northwestern Mexico; Olive trees, Olea europaea, from the Mediterranean basin; Citrus species from Asia including Eureka lemon and oranges; and finally Red Ironbark Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus sideroxylon, from Down Under. Check out this picture to see the progress!

 

 

 

 

     Photo by Cordell Corporation


(Posted by: Lila Higgins)

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